(2) Antique Crank Phone Hack




About: Been To:1) All 50 states 2) Guam 3) Adak 4) Hawai'i, Mo Bettah. The only good thing about snow is that it goes away...Would that it never comes.

I have a friend that owns Antique Alley an antique shop on Oahu in Hawai'i.
One day Pak'e sold an old crank telephone, you know da kine, you crank to summon the operator named Sara to ask her to connect you to Sheriff Andy, to a nice old lady that probably remembers Using one.
After the sale the lady stayed a while to talk story with Pak'e, the owner of the store.
It came to pass, during the conversation, that she wanted to use the phone as an extention to her existing phone line.
She did not care if she could use it to call out.
The Pak'e said he knew of a guy that could do the job.......

Enter drbill.

Step 1: Basic Materials:

1 Antique Handcrank Telephone
1 Modern Telephone Handset
Hot Glue Gun
Hot Glue Sticks
Screw Driver
Soldering Iron
2 Hollow Non-Conductive Tubes


Step 2: The Handcrank Telephone:

The 2 screws on the right side of the front panel allow the phone to be opened when un-screwed.

When the phone is open you will notice a very large empty box at the bottom of the phone.

This is where the modern phone will go and where all the wiring will be extended from and to all the various antique phone parts that may or may not work.

This telephone has a handcrank generator that produces _ _ volts that vary with the speed at which it is turned.
It is truly Wild electricity.
There is no battery in this phone.

Step 3: Various Parts (upper Section):

1) The Hand Set
2) The Mouthpiece
3) The Box
4) The hang-up Switch
5) The Capacitor (not used)

And Parts Is Parts.

Step 4: More Various Parts (lower Section):

This section was a large empty space.
It is where the modern phone is installed, connecting wires are run, and hot glued in place for neatness. 
See picture for parts placement.

Step 5: Antique Microphone Exposed:

The microphone is made of metal and Bakelite. The bakelite part is the black cone on the end of the mic arm right in front. Take it in your hand and turn it counter clockwise. Use no tools it will break.

Put it in a safe place where it wont fall. It is a brittle as glass.

The internal mic must be removed to install a modern mic as the old one will not work with the modern phone.

See the pictures for detailed removal instructions......

Step 6: The Modern Microphone Install:

As you make your connections make sure that your wires are long enough to be routed and glued down neatly in bundles. Makes for a nice clean, professional looking job.

Step 7: The Hand Set:

Unscrew the cup you put to your ear. Inside you will find the speaker. Pull it out. See the notes on the pictures for further dis-assembly.


The wire insulation is white. This is the asbestos. If you spray it with a clear craft spray you will make it safer as the asbestos will be less likely to turn to dust and fly around into your lungs after you coat it with the spray.
When you do this you are encapsulating the asbestos. Encapsulation is not perminant.

It is best to replace the wire with something safer and newer. Do not take chances.

Step 8: Wire Routing:

Try to route your wires in bundles so that you end up with a nice professional looking job.
Maybe you have seen a wire harness from a car where all the wires are tied with string or zip ties?
That is what you are looking for.

Gee..... This sounds like it could be another instructable........Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel !



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41 Discussions


Question 27 days ago on Step 7

I have an old candle stick phone and a western electric ringer box. I just want to wire the generator so it will ring the bells. I wired it straight and cranked it but no ringing.....I put my meter on the magneto and it puts out between 25 and 30 volts a.c. what do I need to do? Thanks.


9 years ago on Introduction

I'm interested - the wood doesn't look antique, the hinges look very cheap and not antique, I see no dial, the bells don't look right - is this an antique phone or a repro / hash of old &new?


8 replies

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

It would it be one where you had to get the operator to dial for you? Any idea how old it it?



Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

My guess?  "It it" circa 1900.

Well, first off, I'm akamai.  Second off, from my extensive knowledge of Hawai'i's trade winds, Honolulu's extensive communications history, and can converse in pidgin (er...  Actually, I'm horrible at pidgin...  I can, however, speak pigeon...  Coo! Coo!), I can deduce that--


FINE!  I just read patent date on the phone...  HAPPY?!  HAPPY?!

Yeah, you're probably not.

I think it says (under schematic, left hand, bottom corner):
APR 30, 1907
[I can't read this line]"


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

I am very happy.
I did not own the phone.
I got Payed to do the hack.
I got special recognition on Instructables.
I cannot believe the number of hits it gotten.
I did it in a non-destructive way.
Last but not least all the original parts were saved out in case it wanted to be restored.

Yeah. I am Da Kine Happy. lol


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

If you didn't use alligator clips to make your connections, you ruined the phone.

I have restored about a dozen Kellogg and such crank phones. There is special cotton-covered wire to use, correct color wire to use, etc. Anything else simply diminishes the worth of the phone.

And there are PLENTY of NOS and OEM parts available for all of these phones...

Hacking something that is near worthless is one thing. Destroying something of worth is something else...


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

That was smart of you to save the original parts. Often you can just wire an old phone right up to your phone line and it will work fine, as the point-of-use interface has been kept backwards compatible for 100+ years. It should even ring!

You can even dial on a phone without a dial/keypad by toggling the switchhook; this is how rotary phones work. So to dial 411 you go bang-bang-bang-bang (wait) bang (wait) bang (wait). 0 is 10 bangs.

Ring voltage is now generated by the telephone company rather than your hand-crank dynamo. I'm not sure what would happen if you generate the 90V on your end but the system can certainly handle it.

This reminds me of the old phone that my dad had reworked... inside it had a normal cordless phone that was connected in a way that allowed the old ringer to still ring when a call came through... seeing this makes me want to re-create it and make it better.... now only to find an old phone, or at least some old phone parts and some old wood....


9 years ago on Introduction

Look at all the goodies in the backround of the first picture. Paki's whole shop looks like that. Packed to the rafters with all the neat stuff you could ever want.

Oh yeah. Paki also supplys some of the props to the TV show 'LOST".

cool Huh?

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

possibly quite hard.  The bell needs a constant and comparatively high amount of power.  you'd need an additional power source for it and some electronic trickery to detect the ring sounds from the donor phone and trigger a relay to power the hammer.  It's possible that one of those remote ringers or ringer lights that plug into a phone line could be adapted to make it go


Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Not that hard.  The phone company sends a special ringing voltage of about 90 volts AC down the line, which has enough power to run more than one bell.

It should have been pretty easy to make this phone work as-is.  I'm sure there's schematics out on the 'net if not complete instructions on restoring and doing whatever mods are needed.


9 years ago on Introduction

Wow,  I had the exact same old phone and did this to it about 15 years ago.  The bell DID work on mine,   I used an at&t  store pushbutton phone that was designed for a bell ringer.   The only thing I  had to change was the microphone if I remember right.   I made mine using a board to cover everything so when you opened it all you saw was the push buttons.    Neat project,  but it will lower the actual value of an antique phone in most cases.  Cheers.

1 reply

Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

Lower value yes maybe. Maybe not. The lady wanted to use it. She did not want to spend a lot of money and she did not want it Destroyed as some here think I did. The phone was preserved in a way that it could be restored very easily. Only a few solder joints were required and All the parts were saved out. No holes were drilled. The original wire to the handset was saved in a bag by itself, taped shut in a second heavier bag, and marked as containing asbestos. All existing wires were left in place for possible future use. The antique parts that were removed were stored in plastic bags with desicant and placed in a separate wood box provided by the owner. The hot glue that was used to hold new wires in place can be pealed off and leaves no stain. So........